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Business // Thinking Smart
David S. Chang

Top Must-have Traits For Leaders

Great leaders are critical to any organization. In fact, it is impossible to have an elite and long-lasting organization without great leadership. There are plenty of books, research and studies on leadership. From my personal experience in dealing with the military, politics, business and nonprofits, there are certain traits that leaders possess, regardless of sector.

Here are the top six must-have skills of an elite leader:

* Vision. Great leaders are able to see the end-state and what the future will look like. By envisioning the future, they are able to take the vision and translate it into SMART goals for their organization. This vision also is ambitious, one that excites people to work toward it. Visit artofthinkingsmart.com to learn more about setting SMART goals.

* Communication. Properly articulating this vision and SMART goals is critical to get an organization motivated. Just presenting the future isn’t good enough to lead the organization to be top notch. Leaders must constantly and consistently communicate where the organization is, where it needs to go and how it will get there. Leaders are persuasive and always reinforce this vision. Nothing destroys morale faster than poor communication.

* Proactive problem-solvers. If a leader is only looking for solutions, chances are the problem already has erupted, resulting in reactionary measures. Leaders who are able to ask the right questions can anticipate these problems before they occur. Instead of looking to see where to place the blame, they take the initiative to solve problems and make sure the same mistakes aren’t made twice. Being proactive will give an organization a leg up on its competitors and help it achieve its SMART goals and vision quicker.

* Know thyself. The famous military strategist Sun Tzu stated: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Leaders are self-aware, honest with themselves and are open to constructive feedback. This skill requires a willingness to improve, put ego aside, and grow on a personal and professional level.

* Trust but verify. Great leaders are able to delegate responsibilities to others, empowering them to take the initiative. Time is a precious commodity – by giving up control and not micromanaging, they allow others in the organization to grow while getting tasks off their to-do list. This gives great leaders the time and mental energy they need to continue leading the organization. Great leaders, however, don’t just trust, they also verify, leading to the next point.

* Accountability. Good leaders hold themselves and their organization accountable in all areas: work ethic, attaining SMART goals, professionalism and even personal commitments. More importantly, they lead by example. These skills transcend any type of organization, field and sector. Anyone can work to exhibit these traits, strengthening their organization, personal and professional life!

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